In the negotiations of the deputy prime ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, there is no mention—and there cannot be—of an "extraterritorial corridor" that would in any way harm the sovereignty of any of the parties. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk said this in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
He recalled that for unblocking economic and transport links in the region, a working group was created by the decision of the heads of states, and under the joint chairmanship of the deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia.
"Achieving this goal will be a decisive step in order to turn the South Caucasus from a hotbed of tension into a region of stability and economic prosperity.
Open communications will make possible the development of commercial and humanitarian ties, will enable neighbors to communicate with each other, and this is the best ‘plaster’ of perennial wounds. Those roads are very necessary for Russia, too, as the entire length will pass through the territory of our friendly countries and will go out to our friendly countries," he said.
Overchuk noted that the South Caucasus has been a crossroads of civilizations and trade routes throughout its history, the actual geo-economic hub of Eurasia.
"It is important to see the main thing: nobody in the region needs a conflict, everyone is interested in the development of communications and wants to participate in that process.
Of course, the trilateral working group cannot work in isolation from the events taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Every escalation of the situation at the border slows down the negotiation process. Every use of terminology unacceptable to one of the parties inhibits the negotiation process. Every time, the process is inhibited when they try, perhaps with good intentions, to include new participants. Every time something like this happens, there is a pause in the negotiations, and we have to wait for the situation to calm down a little and be clarified.
From constant contacts with my colleagues, I know that both sides sincerely understand and strive for peace and prosperity, which cannot be achieved by living in conflict with neighbors. Almost immediately after the September tragedy, I managed to meet face-to-face with my negotiators from both sides. None of the parties wanted such a development of events, but the level of tension and mistrust is such that any careless action by each of the parties can have consequences that no one would want.
From the very beginning of the work in the format of the trilateral working group, the Russian side's approach to all the discussed issues was extremely unambiguous and clear: to ensure, through negotiations, the implementation of the goal agreed by the leaders of the three countries. This is our approach until now, it has not changed.
A lot of hard work has been done in less than two years. As a result, the negotiators have a vision of routes, the implementation of which can lead to the unblocking of the region.
However, the opening or construction of roads is possible only after the parties clearly define the legal procedure for crossing the border between the countries, as well as the traffic on those roads. It is important that a principle was developed during the negotiations, which has become the basis for the approaches regarding the definition of that legal procedure. The principle is as follows: ‘Sovereignty over the road is exercised by the country through whose territory the road passes.’ This means that if the road passes through Armenian territory, then this is an Armenian road; if through Azerbaijani territory, then—Azerbaijani.
Russia has always defended the principle of the sovereignty of the parties, and it clearly stands by the positions of the statements of the leaders of the three countries on November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. This means that there is no, and there cannot be any, mention of any "extraterritorial corridor" in the negotiations of the trilateral working group at the level of deputy prime ministers, which would in any way violate the sovereignty of any of the parties.